Solid play and strategic planning were key to India's success at the 41st Chess Olympiad in Norway, said team members.
For the first time, India won three medals - a gold, silver and bronze - at the Chess Olympiad that concluded Thursday in the Norwegian city of Tromse.
India, seeded 19th, scored 17 points and were tied for the second place with Hungary, Russia and Azerbaijan. But owing to better tie-break scores, Hungary got the silver medal while India got the bronze ahead of Russia, Azerbaijan and others. The gold was won by China.
India's seasoned Grandmaster (GM) K. Sasikiran won the silver medal for his individual performance on the third board. The Indian eves too had good news to celebrate as Woman GM (WGM) Padmini Rout won the gold medal for her performance on the fifth board.
"It is just unimaginable that we have won the bronze medal. We never expected to win that," an elated GM S.P. Sethuraman told IANS in an email soon after the declaration of the final standings.
For Sethuraman, this was his first chess Olympiad and it turned out to be a memorable tournament. With five wins and five draws, he gave a splendid and solid performance for the Indian team.
"When we missed the gold in Asian Nations Cup tournament (China got the gold on a better tie-break score over India), we told ourselves to compensate for that by showing great performance in the Olympiad," Sethuraman added.
At the Chess Olympiad, the Indian team decided to adopt their success strategy of the Asian Nations Cup fielding the strongest players at the lower boards and a mix of highly rated and lower-rated but solid players at the top two boards.
As per this strategy, Sasikiran with an elo rating of 2,669 points played on the third board. Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi (2,645) played first board, Sethuraman (2,590) on the second and GM B. Adhiban (2,619) on the fourth board. The fifth player GM Lalith Babu M.R. (2,565) was the reserve player though technically he was called fifth board player.
The idea was to secure a win at the lower boards with top rated players while the lower rated team members will try to hold/draw their games at the top boards against stronger opponents.
At the Asian Nations Cup, the Indian team decided break away from the tradition and adopted the alternate strategy of playing Sasikiran and Negi on the second and fourth boards.
"Yeah, the board order we adopted was just great. Hats off to our captain GM R.B. Ramesh for taking this key decision," Sethuraman said.
With this victory, the Indian team has qualified for the World Team Chess Championship.
"The World Team Championship will have 10 teams and all will play all. India won the bronze medal in the 2010 World Team Championship which very few people are aware of. The next event will be held in 2015," World No.26 and Indian GM P. Harikrishna told IANS.
"Right now, we are all very excited and looking forward to the World Team event," he said.
Apart from the medal haul, there were some other positive developments for the Indian chess officials like the re-election of D.V. Sundar as vice president of FIDE - the world body governing the game.
The CEO of All India Chess Federation (AICF) Bharat Singh Chauhan was elected deputy president of the Asian Chess Federation.